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From: Felipe Contreras <felipe.contreras@gmail.com>
To: Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget <gitgitgadget@gmail.com>,
	git@vger.kernel.org
Cc: gitster@pobox.com, sandals@crustytoothpaste.net,
	stolee@gmail.com, jrnieder@gmail.com, emilyshaffer@google.com,
	Derrick Stolee <derrickstolee@github.com>,
	Derrick Stolee <dstolee@microsoft.com>
Subject: RE: [PATCH 4/4] CodingGuidelines: recommend singular they
Date: Mon, 07 Jun 2021 15:00:28 -0500	[thread overview]
Message-ID: <60be7adcdf3b_db9162081e@natae.notmuch> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <d2c079264955b3bd6c3a5ef77a9c3684206f8475.1623085069.git.gitgitgadget@gmail.com>

Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget wrote:
> From: Derrick Stolee <dstolee@microsoft.com>
> 
> Technical writing seeks to convey information with minimal friction. One
> way that a reader can experience friction is if they encounter a
> description of "a user" that is later simplified using a gendered
> pronoun. If the reader does not consider that pronoun to apply to them,
> then they can experience cognitive dissonance that removes focus from
> the information.

We can solve that easily by using 50% he, and 50% she (I presume you are
in the equality of outcome camp in the culture war).

By using an invented pronoun we introduce more friction, especially with
the people that just learned English, and just familiarized themselves
with the standard English pronouns.

> If we use singular "they/them" pronouns instead of "he/him" or "she/her"
> pronouns, then we can avoid this congitive load on the reader.

I do not consider the singular pronoun "they" to apply to me. I presume
others are on the same boat.

Do I not count? If so, why?

> Using singular "they" is also incredibly efficient. Choosing a gendered
> pronoun is usually arbitrary between "he" or "she". Using constructs
> such as "he or she", "s/he", or "(s)he" are more complicated than
> singular "they".

But it's not part of standard English language.

  Of all the turf wars that have complicated the landscape of grammar
  over the past few hundred years, the most complicated and frustrating
  may be that of the singular they.

  It may be the most controversial word use in the English
  language—because it highlights a hole where a better-fitting word
  should go.

  It creates a conflict between writers and editors who want things to
  follow the natural symmetry of Latin, and people who find they the
  only logical option for referring to a single person without a gender
  attached.

  And there has been a lot written about it—it’s something of a hot
  topic this year, thanks to a vote by the American Dialect Society to
  name they its word of the year for 2015.

  Alas, this problem isn’t as easy to solve as a vote from a dialect
  society. The problem is something of an emotional one—and it’s sparked
  debate for centuries.

  Really, if this problem is ever to go away, it’s going to be up to
  professional copy editors to speak up. And at least some of them
  appear to have made peace with the change.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-linguistic-turf-wars-over-the-singular-they

This is a problem for linguists, copy editors, and society in general.
Not a software project.

By introducing rules that presume an outcome fiercly debated *at this
very moment* you are introducing more friction.

> When choosing a gendered pronoun, that pronoun no longer applies to
> nearly half of possible readers. Even if we alternated between "he/him"
> and "she/her" perfectly evenly, we would still expect male and female
> readers to experience an incorrect pronoun half the time. However, some
> readers will not prescribe to either of these binary genders. Those
> readers hence suffer an incorrect pronoun the entire time. Singular
> "they" applies to every reader.

This is a problem of the English language, not Git's documentation.

> Perhaps due to similar reasons, official style guides have changed their
> stance on singuler "they" in recent years. For example, the APA style
> guide changed their official recommendation in 2019 [1]. The MLA
> handbook also references helpful ways to use singular "they" [2]. While
> not fully endorsing it, the Chicago Manual of Style has removed its
> blanket ban on singular "they" [3] (the previous recommendation was to
> only use "it" as a singular non-gendered pronoun).

This would be a killer argument if language was prescriptive, but it's
not. At least half of linguists (probably way more) are on the
descriptivist side.

Most writers ignore style guides and write in the way they see others
write. Not how anyone prescribes.

> While not all styleguides are updating their recommendations, we can
> make a choice as a project to adopt the concept because of the
> efficiencies above, as well as the benefits of increased inclusion.
> 
> To futher justify singular "they" as an acceptable grammatical concept,
> I include the careful research of brian m. carlson who collected their
> thoughts on this matter [2] (lightly edited):
> 
>   Singular "they" has been used by native English speakers as part of
>   the language for over half a millennium and is widely used and
>   understood. This usage is specified in Merriam Webster[3]:

Again, I already responded to this argument:

A similar thing happens with the word "nucular" [2]; it is used by
native English speakers as part of the language for many decades and is
widely used and understood.

Does that mean it's a valid word? Maybe.

But does that make "nuclear" invalid? No.

You can use "nucular" if you want (many people do). I will use
"nuclear".

Both can be valid, and we shouldn't demand the use of one over the
other.

>   Linguists fit roughly into two camps: prescriptive and descriptive.
>   The former specify rules for people to use, and the latter document
>   language as it is actually used without forming a judgment.
> 
>   Some prescriptivists think it is acceptable, and some do not. But
>   descriptivists will rightly note that it is and has been commonly
>   used in English across countries, cultures, and contexts for an
>   extended period of time and is therefore generally accepted by most
>   English speakers as a normal part of the language.  Since we are
>   writing text for an English language audience who are mostly not
>   linguists, we should probably consider using the language that most
>   people will use in this context.

This is an argument against your proposal:

  1. It dismantles the need to heed style guides
  2. If it was true, we would already see wideslread use of the singular
     "they" in the documentation (and we don't)
  3. If we follow the descriptivist approach, the we should let the
     writers of the documentation follow what they think is best, not
     *prescrive* what prononoun they shall use

And even if this was an argument in favor of "they", you still need to
provide an argument against "she", or "he.

> If we refer to a specific person, then using a gendered pronoun is
> appropriate. Examples within the Git codebase include:
> 
> * References to real people (e.g. Linus Torvalds, "the Git maintainer").
>   Do not misgender real people. If there is any doubt to the gender of a
>   person, then use singular "they".
> 
> * References to fictional people with clear genders (e.g. Alice and
>   Bob).
> 
> * Sample text used in test cases (e.g t3702, t6432).
> 
> * The official text of the GPL license contains uses of "he or she", but
>   modifying the license this way is not within the scope of the Git
>   project.

This is linguistic prescription [3]:

  Linguistic prescription, or prescriptive grammar, is the attempt to
  establish rules defining preferred or correct usage of language.

You can't eat your cake and have it too.

Cheers.

[1] https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-linguistic-turf-wars-over-the-singular-they
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nucular
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_prescription

-- 
Felipe Contreras

  parent reply	other threads:[~2021-06-07 20:00 UTC|newest]

Thread overview: 124+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2021-06-07 16:57 [PATCH 0/4] Use singular "they" when appropriate Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-07 16:57 ` [PATCH 1/4] Documentation: use singular they " Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-07 17:09   ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-07 17:32     ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-07 17:42       ` Andrei Rybak
2021-06-07 18:21       ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-10  7:44     ` Johannes Schindelin
2021-06-10 14:35       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-07 21:36   ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 18:47     ` Phillip Susi
2021-06-09 20:26       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-11 15:40         ` Phillip Susi
2021-06-11 17:03           ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-10 18:30       ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-11  0:16         ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-11 16:00         ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-12 14:02         ` Phillip Susi
2021-06-08  1:18   ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-08  8:51     ` Kerry, Richard
2021-06-08 23:21       ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-09 13:13         ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-10  3:11         ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-08 17:33   ` Emily Shaffer
2021-06-08 18:03     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 13:44       ` Kerry, Richard
2021-06-09 17:44         ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-25 14:30           ` Kerry, Richard
2021-06-09  4:48     ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-10  8:18     ` Johannes Schindelin
2021-06-10 14:42       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-14 22:10       ` Robert Karszniewicz
2021-06-07 16:57 ` [PATCH 2/4] *: use singular they in comments Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-07 17:12   ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-07 17:20     ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-10  8:20     ` Johannes Schindelin
2021-06-07 19:02   ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-07 21:44     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-08 17:36   ` Emily Shaffer
2021-06-07 16:57 ` [PATCH 3/4] *: fix typos Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-08 17:37   ` Emily Shaffer
2021-06-10  8:36   ` Johannes Schindelin
2021-06-10 19:53     ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-11  9:55       ` Johannes Schindelin
2021-06-07 16:57 ` [PATCH 4/4] CodingGuidelines: recommend singular they Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-07 18:31   ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-08  1:47     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-07 18:56   ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-07 19:05     ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-08  0:05       ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-10 21:34       ` brian m. carlson
2021-06-10  8:39     ` Johannes Schindelin
2021-06-07 20:00   ` Felipe Contreras [this message]
2021-06-09 18:29     ` Phillip Susi
2021-06-09 20:18       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-07 20:20   ` Robert Karszniewicz
2021-06-07 22:18     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-08  7:10   ` Jeff King
2021-06-08  8:11     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 13:23       ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-09 15:20         ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-10 22:06     ` brian m. carlson
2021-06-11 16:11       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-08 17:39   ` Emily Shaffer
2021-06-09  4:44     ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-09 13:27       ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-07 20:10 ` [PATCH 0/4] Use singular "they" when appropriate Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 13:54 ` [PATCH v2 " Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-09 13:54   ` [PATCH v2 1/4] Documentation: use singular they " Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-09 15:33     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 13:54   ` [PATCH v2 2/4] *: use singular they in comments Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-09 15:41     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 13:54   ` [PATCH v2 3/4] *: fix typos Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-09 13:54   ` [PATCH v2 4/4] CodingGuidelines: recommend singular they Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-09 15:50     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 15:44   ` [PATCH v2 0/4] Use singular "they" when appropriate Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-09 17:22     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-10  2:03     ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-10  2:28       ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-10  3:30       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-10 22:32     ` brian m. carlson
2021-06-10 22:58       ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-11 16:32         ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-11 17:18         ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-11 20:38           ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-13  7:17           ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-15  6:02             ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-15 13:36               ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-15 17:03                 ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-14  0:47           ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-15 14:11   ` [PATCH v3 0/4] Avoid gendered pronouns Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-15 14:11     ` [PATCH v3 1/4] doc: avoid using the gender of other people Felipe Contreras via GitGitGadget
2021-06-15 14:11     ` [PATCH v3 2/4] comments: avoid using the gender of our users Felipe Contreras via GitGitGadget
2021-06-15 14:11     ` [PATCH v3 3/4] *: fix typos Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-15 14:11     ` [PATCH v3 4/4] CodingGuidelines: recommend singular they Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-15 16:19       ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-15 17:26         ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-16  2:47         ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-16  5:06           ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-16  9:26             ` Bagas Sanjaya
2021-06-16 17:44             ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-16 19:54             ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-16 23:22               ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-17  0:09               ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-17 13:22                 ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-17 14:53                   ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-17 17:06                     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-17 15:25                   ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-18  0:26                   ` brian m. carlson
2021-06-18 16:12                     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-17 15:23                 ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-17 15:58                 ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-18  0:53               ` brian m. carlson
2021-06-18  7:24                 ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-18 16:40                   ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-19  7:03                 ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-28 22:32                   ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-29  1:31                     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-29  1:53                     ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-29 12:29                       ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-17 15:12             ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-17 14:46           ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-15 17:08       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-12  4:40 ` [PATCH 0/4] Use singular "they" when appropriate Bagas Sanjaya
2021-06-12 14:19   ` Phillip Susi

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